Hundreds of athletes from around the world are fighting hard for a place in the Tokyo Olympics 2020, with several qualifying tournaments yet to be played. But for Pakistani horse rider Usman Khan, who has already qualified for the pinnacle event – thereby also becoming the first from his country to qualify for this sport – the stained political relations between India and Pakistan have led to a controversy.
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Indian administrators have questioned Usman’s Tokyo qualification, because the horse which he rode to qualify for the Olympics, is named ‘Azad Kashmir’ (free Kashmir)
Hindustan Times has reported that Usman bought a 12-year-old
bay-colt named “Here-to-Stay” from Belinda Isbister of Australia in April 2019,
but renamed him Azad Kashmir.
Indian Olympic Association has sought legal opinion from the International Olympics Federation on this matter, asking if or if not it goes against Olympic Charter’s Rule 50 which states that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas”.
With India’s Fouaad Mirza also having qualified for the
event, the Indian administrators are not too sure if a horse named Azad Kashmir
should participate in the Olympics. For starters, Azad Kashmir, also called
Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, is the region of Kashmir invaded by Pakistan in 1947
and has been in the middle of most of the political tension between the two
“Political neutrality has to be maintained at the Olympics at any cost,” said Indian Olympics Association (IOA) president Narinder Batra as per Hindustan Times. “People can’t be allowed to play mischief at the Games.”
Muhamad Irfan Zaafar, head of IT and communication at Equestrian Federation of Pakistan (EFP) said that they will request Usman to change the name of his horse. “If it becomes an issue then we’ll first check if Usman is flexible with changing the name,” Zaafar said. “But then we can always use its FEI identity instead of the name.”